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The song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The song of Achilles (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Madeline Miller

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1,6131464,504 (4.11)3 / 634
Title:The song of Achilles
Authors:Madeline Miller (Author)
Info:London ; New York : Bloomsbury, 2011.
Collections:LT connections, Read but unowned
Tags:21st century, Achilles, Ancient Greece, fantasy, fiction, gay, god, Greece, historical, Iliad, love, mythology, novel, Patroclus, Trojan war, Troy, US author, war

Work details

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

  1. 90
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 50
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  3. 50
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  4. 30
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  5. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  6. 21
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  7. 10
    An Arrow's Flight: A Novel by Mark Merlis (marq)
    marq: Mark Merlis also takes up the story of Pyrrhus (or Neoptolemus), Achilles’ son with Deidamia when he was in disguise as a woman on Scyros. A very different kind of novel, steampunk, wild anachronism, graphically homoerotic, brilliant.
  8. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  9. 322
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.

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Well thought out retelling of the story Achilles, hero of the Trojan war, and he the originator of the concept of an Achilles Heel. Only in this case, Achilles' true weakness, his "heel", is Patroclus. Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction.
  bookczuk | Nov 10, 2015 |
THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller won the 2012 Orange Prize for ‘fiction written by a woman’...but this novel told through the eyes of a man; a gay man; a gay man living over 3000 years ago. Patroclus doesn’t have a large role in the Iliad, but he is a large part of its story. His death at the hands of Hector, the Trojan hero, sparks his friend Achilles into action after months of refusing to fight in the war. He steps out from the Greek camp and slaughters the prince of Troy, then drags Hector’s body behind his chariot in triumph. The second half of story of the Iliad is mostly centred on Priam’s need to get his son’s body back from the Greeks and give it a proper burial. In the Iliad, Patroclus and Achilles are described as good friends – it is never actually stated they are lovers – but how far does one usually go for a drinking buddy? The rage Achilles clearly feels at Patroclus’ death explodes from the pages of the Iliad...the first ‘written’ piece of ‘fiction’ (or rather, life writing in storytelling form). Partly, this anger is related to who is to blame for his death...is it Hector...or is it Achilles, who unwittingly pushed Patroclus into going out to battle in his friend’s armour, representing Achilles in a bid to strengthen the moral of the Greek side?

Miller tells the story through the eyes of Patroclus, rather than any of the big guns of the Iliad. This has been done before, Mary Renault uses the device in her tales of Alexander the Great, which are narrated by Bagoas, his catamite. Starting when Patroclus is nine years old and finishing long after the Iliad finishes, Miller uses an intimate first-person present tense narrative, and fair rips along, making it an extremely easy read for such a long book. A young reviewer for the Guardian Kids’ Fiction pages said she’d finished it in a matter of hours.It is without doubt my favourite read this year; it feels a long time since I so enjoyed a book; was so unable to put it down. I loved the way Miller plays with the solid classical pedigree of these Greek stories, how she builds figures that long ago became archetypal into real characters, and how she re-imagines the world of bronze-aged Greece and Turkey. However she does have her critics. The Telegraph describes her narrative as... swoony soft-porn prose...Patroclus’ early years are a bit Judy Blume-ish ...The Guardian seems to agree...Miller’s book is unashamed to be a - not a bodice-ripping, so let’s call it a breastplate-ripping – romp...The Telegraph points out that...Miller’s book doesn’t swell or ripen into a meaningful engagement with the ancient literary tradition, as any serious attempt to appropriate the classics... I have to say that I didn’t think Miller was trying to do so, although she is a classics scholar. However, the Guardian goes on to admire, as I do, the clever twist at the end (I’d been wondering how she’d end it, as Patroclus dies some time before Achilles), But, as the Guardian review says...The book reaches a more thoughtful level when it continues to give Patroclus a voice after he is killed. Here it creates its own beauty, and achieves a sense of the uncanny which is otherwise lacking.
This is Madeline Miller’s debut novel, the second debut to win the Orange Prize in that number of years. In 2011 it was Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife which I enjoyed but have to say didn’t rate all that highly. I thought this was far better; better plotted, better structured, better researched with stronger characters. And it saw off
off strong competition: I’ve also read the short-listed Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, and Ann Patchett’s slick State of Wonder, which I have to say I enjoyed equally, but The Song of Achilles won the prize and it seems more than a little churlish to moan at it, when it truly is such a remarkable feat. One thing the reviews seem to have bypassed is the title. The story isn’t about Achilles as much as it’s Patroclus’ autobiography, but the haunting title comes straight from the writer’s first source; The Iliad’s subtitle is Song of Ilium. ( )
  ninahare | Oct 27, 2015 |
A vibrant reimagining of Homer's Iliad told from the perspective of Achilles' partner Patroclus. The book fuses a sympathetic understanding of the characters and their motivations with fantastic legendary elements such as the vengeful sea god Thetis and the centaur Chiron. Fantasy has never been a favourite genre for me, but we can forgive the traditions of ancient legends and enjoy being transported by the always readable plot. I'm not an expert on Homer or the classics, and have never read the Iliad, so I can't comment on what is added or left out. ( )
  bodachliath | Sep 25, 2015 |
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the story of Troy as told through the eyes of Patroclus, the companion of Achilles, the greatest warrior of the legends. The author, a scholar in Greek History from Brown, made the familiar more realistic by using the first person narration. This way the reader sees Achilles the way Patroclus did. It seemed interesting at first, but I admit being a little disappointed by the love interest aspect of the companionship. I have since read that this relationship was implied in the original works, but most retellings don't include this. Still the characterization of Achilles, his graceful skills, his ego, and his fierceness were nicely drawn. The novel was an easy read and provided interesting interludes with the gods, especially Thetis, Achilles' mother. The novel details the legend of Helen, her beauty and how her kidnaping ignited the war with Troy. I was disappointed that the Trojan Horse scene is merely glossed over at the end, but to be fair the author had finished what she set out to tell, the story of Achilles and Patroclus. ( )
  novelcommentary | Aug 23, 2015 |
excellant. will read again. ( )
  jllady8 | Aug 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
That The Song of Achilles offers a different take on the epic story of Achilles and the Trojan War is not, in itself, anything particularly out of the ordinary. People have been putting their own spins on The Iliad from the instant Homer finished reciting it. What's startling about this sharply written, cleverly re-imagined, enormously promising debut novel from Madeline Miller is how fresh and moving her take on the tale is — how she has managed to bring Achilles and his companion Patroclus to life in our time without removing them from their own.
added by Shortride | editUSA Today, Robert Bianco (Mar 12, 2012)
But in the case of Miller, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in classics at Brown, the epic reach exceeds her technical grasp. The result is a book that has the head of a young adult novel, the body of the “Iliad” and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeline Millerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Douglas, FrazerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AllisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorpe, DavidReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windgassen, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To my mother Madeline, and Nathaniel
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My father was a king and the son of kings.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Short introduction

To the classic Iliad

With misplaced passion.


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Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.… (more)

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